Reactions to Egypt's unrest in the Arab press
What the Arab papers say : Feb 2nd 2011, 10:46 by J.D. | LONDONTHE Arab press has been following the unrest in Egypt closely since the country's first "day of rage", over a week ago.
In Al Shorouk, an independent Egyptian daily newspaper, Emad El Din Hussein describes the sudden disappearance of religious and political barriers that have divided Egyptians in the past decades:
I swear by Almighty God that I cried with joy to see Egypt reborn in Tahrir Square on Tuesday night…Members of Muslim Brotherhood, Nasserists and Marxists were all present; you could recognize them from their physical appearance and the way they spoke or dressed. But they were few and far between...The majority of those present were ordinary citizens...thousands of people mingled together shouting different slogans and singing together…other demonstrators sat talking about poverty, unemployment and violation of human dignity.
While enthusiastic about the sudden spurt of political activism in Egypt, Mena Malak La‘zar also expresses his anxiety for the movement’s momentum. He writes in the Egyptian opposition daily, Al Masri Al Youm:
Egypt can now boldly say no! Though officials may manage to disperse the demonstrators, they will not succeed in killing them. They need to solve their problems. Otherwise the consequences could be bad and could be against the nation’s best interests. Some of those involved may "ride the wave," and take advantage of those who are not politicised, seizing illegitimate opportunities. And so these living protests would die.
We must try and maintain this heartbeat in the body of the motherland, and keep alive the remnants of hope in our veins.
Similarly, Clovis Maqsoud of the Lebanese newspaper, Al Nahar, points out that the disorder resulting from the protests has prompted a sense of Egyptian national unity—"as in the case of a citizen’s arrest of a gang of secret police caught trying to break into the Central Bank of Egypt, or citizens protecting the Egyptian National Museum" which, he argues, "emphasizes the culture and sense of responsibility of the revolution of the masses toward future generations in Egypt." Nevertheless, he writes, the greatest test lies ahead:
But what is most important and what qualifies today's events as a new chapter in the history of the Arabs is that the revolution of the masses and the new generation has imposed a series of demands on other opposition forces in Egypt. From those on the left to nationalists, Islamists and other groups, people of different political persuasions are interacting the way you do in pluralist politics. This uprising has a rhythm to it though, and the multiplicity of parties will only be a reliable reference of the "revolution of the young" if they unite in turn and prove themselves by putting their similarities and differences at the heart of a process to provide a real framework of government.
Leading with the tagline "Egypt's problems will not be solved by burning and looting," the Saudi newspaper, Al Jazirah, worries about what the protests are turning into:
In France, hardly a week goes by without the streets being filled with demonstrations for social, economic, political—even moral—causes…only rarely have protesters looted a food warehouse or a retail goods store to steal its contents—turning demonstrators into the thieves. In European and Asian countries, there are clashes between demonstrators and police, with police vehicles set aflame. But only in Arab countries do we see the transformation of demonstrations into theft…seeing this looting, law-abiding Egyptians worry that the fate of their country has been hijacked by a bunch of thieves.
There is plenty of venom directed at Mr Mubarak. Saleh Awad, writing in Echourouk, a Tunisian daily paper, describes Mr Mubarak as a Zionist collaborator and traitor to the pan-Arab cause:
The Pharaoh has fallen. He fell because of the American aggression against Iraq and the help he gave them in occupying an Arab Muslim country. He fell because of the part he played in the conspiracy against Palestine and its humiliated people. He fell because of the conspiracy against Syria, Lebanon and Sudan. The Zionists' sweetheart and the architect of a humiliating normalisation of relations with Israel has fallen. That it is happening is divine punishment carried out by the people.
There is concern across the Arab world about where the uprisings will lead the people of Egypt. ‘Arib Al-Rantawi writes in the Jordanian paper, Al Dustour:
Yesterday, a week after the descent of people into the streets and squares of Egypt, the president informed his fellow Arab rulers—anxious more out of concern for themselves than for his safety—that Cairo is neither Tunisia nor Beirut, a sign of the state of denial these leaders are living in. They see heads of state falling, Zine el Abidine Ben Ali to Saad Hariri, from Tunis to Beirut, and the hundreds of thousands of Egyptians, led by the turbans of Al-Azhar and the pillars of the judiciary. And so they respond, saying "unleash the fighter jets to scream across the Cairo sky."
They are betting on the exhaustion of the Egyptian street...They are betting that Egypt will sink into a sea of chaos and destruction...They hope for a scenario in which the temple is destroyed, the "Samson option"…but yesterday instead Egyptians shouted together from Tahrir Square, from behind Azza Bulabag and Ahmed Fouad Negm: "O Egypt, my nation, stay strong! All that you hope for is yours!”
Mr Rantawi is not alone in feeling that, "like a genie, the people of Egypt have escaped from the bottle, and it is impossible to stuff them back in." Like many, Adbel Bar Atwan of the London Arabic daily Al Quds Al Arabi agrees that things have changed irrevocably for Egypt:
What we should realise and understand is that we are at the vanguard of a new Arab world where there is no place for the rule of repressive dictatorships belonging to the Cold War, nor their hollow slogans…that period has worn itself out and is extinct, and now in its place, we have the generation of Facebook and the internet.
Egypt is living through a real revolution, triggered by brave young people desperate to get rid of the knot of fear, wanting to topple the regime of corruption, nepotism and mafiosos—to restore Egypt to her international role and former standing.
Others see the problem differently. Tariq Hameed of the pan-Arab daily Al Sharq Al Awsat writes that Egyptians’ dissatisfaction with Mr Mubarak has nothing to do with the president himself, whom he describes as being "neither Saddam Hussein nor Zine el Abidine Ben Ali," and "a nationalist in both war and peace" whom Egyptians are "proud to have as a part of their history." Rather it is the institutionalised tolerance of unlimited presidential terms that they are protesting against:
The crisis is not a crisis of the Egyptian regime, but a crisis of all Arab republics. If the opponents of Mubarak’s regime blamed it yesterday for being a client of America, how can they blame Washington today for not standing against it strongly, or forget that there other Arab republics whose democratic predicaments are far greater than the plight of the Egypt...? Washington has allowed Nuri al-Maliki to take a second term in Iraq, despite losing the election! Is this a case of Arab hypocrisy, or its absence? What about the Sudanese regime, for example? And the other republics?
This is not a defense of the Egyptian regime, or any other, but is a call for reason and reflection, rather than emotion.
At the moment, pro-government Egyptian newspapers, such as the state-run Al-Ahram—long considered the voice of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party—as well as the state-backing independent daily Al-Akhbar, have been taken offline and the internet in Egypt is still unreliable, hence the paucity of links. We'll add them when we can. In the mean time, you can read more translations at Meedan.net.